Over the weekend, The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE, which represents animation artists throughout Los Angeles, announced its election results. The new president is Bob Foster who has had an impressive forty-year career in the industry. I’d occasionally run into Bob when I lived in LA, and he always impressed me with his knowledge of animation and cartoon history. He’s as much a fan of the art form as he is someone who works in it, and that’s a commendable trait.
Foster ran uncontested, and replaces computer animator Kevin Koch, who is stepping down as president after nine years. I don’t want to read into this too much, but it should be pointed out that most of the recent jobs listed on Koch’s online resume are non-union studios (Blue Sky Studios, Super 78 Studios, Snoot Entertainment, Medical CyberWorlds). While the union doesn’t prohibit its members from working at outside shops, it can’t be an inspiring message to rank-and-file members when its last president consistently worked outside during the past few years.
Looking at it from a different perspective, however, Kevin’s career path simply reflects that of a modern animator. The union largely represents studios that create TV and feature animation, and as I wrote in the second half of this article, the fragmentation of the industry means that younger generations of artists can’t be expected to commit themselves to specific formats as in the past. How the union will adapt to reflect these changing realities of its membership remains to be seen.